Led by a red-hot offense, the Toronto Raptors are climbing the Eastern Conference standings.
Considering its productivity, the team shouldn’t have much trouble scoring against a New York club that has been vulnerable lately on defense.
The Raptors look to win their fourth game in a row Thursday night against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
With a 111-103 victory over Miami on Wednesday, Toronto (24-22) jumped past the Heat into fifth place in the East. Andrea Bargnani(notes) finished with 27 points - one shy of his season high - while Chris Bosh(notes) had 24 and a season-best 18 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 13-5 since Dec. 18, the league’s third-best record in that span.
“It’s about that time, it’s almost February,” Bosh said. “We’re playing a lot better. We know what’s at stake. We’ve climbed all the way up to where we are in the standings and we don’t want to just let it go, because it’s easier to lose than to win.”
The Raptors shot 56.8 percent against the Heat, and have scored at least 100 points in a franchise-record 11 consecutive games, averaging 106.5 points. One of the games in that stretch was a 112-104 win at New York on Jan. 15, as Toronto shot 53.4 percent and made 12 of 22 from 3-point range.
DeRozan missed his first game Wednesday with a sprained right ankle after starting the first 45, and will not play versus New York (18-26). The offense didn’t seem to miss a beat against the Heat, as Sonny Weems(notes) had 10 points in DeRozan’s place.
Just as it did two weeks ago, Toronto’s offense again seems poised to give New York problems.
The Knicks, who have lost six of nine, have allowed an average of 116.0 points in their last three games, and are 5-20 when giving up at least 100.
New York is coming off Tuesday’s 132-105 win over Minnesota, two days after a 128-78 loss to Dallas—the worst home defeat in franchise history. The Knicks, who led the Timberwolves by as many as 36, became the third team in NBA history to win by 20 or more the game after losing by 50.
“We really didn’t play well against Dallas,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s not good but we responded in a good manner. Now we’ve just got to keep it going from here.”
The problem for New York is that it hasn’t had much luck against teams with winning records lately. The Knicks have lost five consecutive games against teams over .500 since a 112-108 overtime victory at Atlanta on New Year’s Day.